Michigan State Football: 5 Spring Practice Positional Battles to Watch
5 Battles to Watch During MSU Spring Football
Spring football starts on March 25 for the reigning Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans. Spring ball is a beautiful time of the year. Returning players get a chance to shake off the rust and show what they have been working on during the offseason. New recruits and younger guys get a chance to come in and try to steal those veterans' positions.
Most of the key losses for Michigan State are on defense -- linebacker, corner back and defensive line. Linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are both gone, and both were all-conference, multi-year starters. Offensively, captain and starting left guard Blake Treadwell is also gone, as are the starting right guard and starting right tackle. There are holes to fill on the defensive line as well with the loss of two starting defensive tackles.
Some positions seem pretty well set -- the quarterback job for one, and running back for another. Despite the loss of Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard at No. 1 corner back, last year's No. 2 Trae Waynes is poised to step up and fill the role.
Then again, competition is a wonderful thing. Even positions that seem to be figured out might not be. At the very least, there is ample talent all around to keep starters and veterans on their toes. The coaching staff has made it clear that there are many players on the team that have the potential to start.
It should be an interesting spring in East Lansing, and here are five positional battles to keep an eye on as it all unfolds.
Center: Jake Allen vs. Devyn Salmon
Junior Jake Allen is the team's starting center, but Head Coach Mark Dantonio said last week that Devyn Salmon is also going to get a very good look during spring ball.
Running Back: Jeremy Langford vs. Nick Hill
Jeremy Langford was the man last year, running for 1,422 yards on 292 carries. But competition is what drives players to get better, and Langford will have some in Nick Hill. Hill had the longest run through the first five games in 2013 (35 yards) and has been working to get faster and stronger in the offseason. The senior ranked second on the team last year in rush yards with 344 on 67 carries. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, slightly more than Langford’s 4.9.
Quarterback: Connor Cook vs. Damion Terry
Last offseason, freshman Damion Terry was in the starting-QB conversation before a bout with illness and injury resulted in a redshirt for the year. Certainly after Connor Cook's vastly improved performance over the course of last season, the starting job is his to lose, but he’ll have some fierce spring competition from Terry. Terry stands at 6-foot-3, 222 pounds and actually makes that body mobile. Terry also has a particular target he likes to throw to, junior DeAnthony Arnett. Speaking of Arnett ...
Wide Receiver: Aaron Burbridge vs. DeAnthony Arnett
Seventeen of the 18 players who caught passes for Michigan State last year were underclassmen. Their top two receivers Tony Lippett and Macgarrett Kings are both back. However, there will be some competition for additional WR targets, and juniors Aaron Burbridge and DeAnthony Arnett both have something to prove after showing some inconsistency last year. Burbridge struggled with a hamstring injury and Arnett has taken some time to adjust to his transfer from Tennessee two years ago. However, both are deemed to have high upsides by the coaching staff and should push each other in spring ball.
Defensive Tackle: Craig Evans vs. Enoch Smith Jr.
Michigan State's heralded defense is losing two starting defensive tackles in Michajah Reynolds and Tyler Hoover. Backup Mark Scarpinato is graduating early. There will be good competition to fill in for those key losses, competition which includes two incoming freshmen tackles. Craig Evans and Enoch Smith Jr. have both drawn praise from defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. According to Narduzzi, both could be serious candidates to play immediately.